Finding Work in Japan: The One Secret to Improving Your Resumé

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In my previous post, I went over what you don’t need to include in your resumé and cover letter in order to get a job in Japan. This time, I’m going to talk a little bit about what you definitely do need to include: reasons why you’re the perfect person for the job.

It sounds obvious enough, but far too many applicants end up forgetting to say why they’d be a great hire. A hiring manager should be able to pick any random sentence of your resumé and be within a few words of another explanation of how you’re a perfect fit for the job.

So the question becomes this: how can I pack my resumé full of reasons I should be hired, but do it in a natural way?

There’s a simple answer. At the end of every single sentence in your cover letter and resumé, ask yourself this question:

So what?

Asking yourself this question can lead to you adding reasons that tie your skills to the position, modifying your language to make sure you’re highlighting your value at every step and pruning sentences that don’t support your cause (or possibly even call attention to a weakness). All of this revision will result in better job application materials — which means a greater chance of you getting an interview.

Let’s take a look at some examples from someone seeking a teaching job in Japan.

XXX Company Teacher (2015-2016)

Head Teacher

Created lesson plans for third graders.

These are the sort of job responsibilities I often see in the resumes I review. At first glance, this might seem like a perfectly normal addition to your CV. But let’s run it through the grinder and ask our question: “so what?” Think about it this way: could you have not written that sentence at all and give the hiring manager pretty much the same amount of information? Pretty much, yeah. So that sentence needs some more substance.

XXX Company Teacher (2015-2016)

Head Teacher

Created, revised, and administered 20 complete on-level engaging lesson plans for 3rd graders while following the national standards for ESL classes.

All that extra spice shows how this experience makes you more prepared to be a great teacher in Japan, as well. This particular example got a little wordy, but this sentence will get you way closer to an interview than the previous one.

Now, there will be times when you can’t answer the “so what?” question in a meaningful way. Here’s an example:

Helped create engaging marketing materials for our after-school program.

That’s great as is. I’m sure it was a valuable and interesting experience. But when you ask yourself “so what” with regards to a teaching position in Japan, the specific value of this in your resumé leaves something to be desired. With enough effort, we could bend over backwards to come up with some way to tie it directly to teaching, but honestly, we’re better off removing it and finding a more meaningful example to use.

Whether you’re writing your CV for the first time or giving it a revision, start asking yourself “so what?” Make sure your resumé is overflowing with specific reasons why you’re a great fit for the position. If your application documents are stacked with content about how valuable you are, you’ve got a leg up on the competition.

“So what?” you ask… Because beating the competition is exactly how you get the job you’re seeking.

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Refusing to be a bitter gaijin since 2007.

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